Cheap and Easy Meals

Sliced no knead olive skillet bread

What to Cook When the Grocery Stores are Out of… Almost Everything.

I went to the store last week for a few things. You know, the usual, peanut butter, half & half, a gallon of water (for my cubicle at work for making coffee), and quinoa. I came home from the store with ONE of those things, peanut butter! All those other aisles were pretty much empty. There was sparkling water, and some of the pricy electrolyte water in bottles. Other than that, not much there! In 2014 there was a water crisis in Toledo and I remember not being able to buy water because the shelves were empty, but I’ve never seen entire isles cleared out of food or paper products. I didn’t go down every aisle, and they weren’t wiped completely out of all food items, but it was slim pickings! We’ll need to get creative with what we have during this coronavirus crisis, so I wanted to put together a quick list of cheap and easy meals for you. Lots of these are made from leftovers, a few ingredients, or even scraps! Some are quick and easy, some will use up leftovers, but all are delicious!

Please feel free to comment or even contact me with a list of your pantry items and I’ll be happy to come up with some recipes for you!

Here are some recipes I’ll be using in the days and weeks to come.

I didn’t think that there wouldn’t be any quinoa on the shelves but to my dismay, there was NONE. There were some lentils, some canned and dried beans but no beloved quinoa. Not even the expensive organic packages! There was however plenty of tuna.

Here is my go-to tuna recipe for a cheap and easy meal. Granny’s Tuna Cakes – 4 Ingredient Tuna Patties!

Granny's Tuna Cakes

I’ve been even more mindful about wasting food since the pandemic started. I even freeze leftover salmon and add to it until I have enough for a nice quick and easy 4 ingredient salmon cake dinner. Leftovers can be turned into the BEST meals! I’ve added leftover spinach, quinoa, and even potato to salmon cakes.

Here is a quick link to my Quick and Easy 4 Ingredient Salmon Cakes!

Salmon Cakes delicious and a cheap and easy meal

I always keep veggie scraps (that I affectionately call “veggie garbage”) in my freezer for making stocks for soup, or to make rice, beans, or quinoa with. You know, that one tomato that is super ripe and you know you aren’t going to be using it, or the last of the fresh garlic, or that 1/4 onion you didn’t need after making a meatloaf? Just put it all in a freezer container and add to it until it’s full! Once I have a good amount I toss it in the Instant Pot with some chicken carcasses, or beef or pork bones, cover it with water and, cook. If I buy a rotisserie chicken, I toss the bones back into the bag and throw them in the freezer. I have several chicken carcasses frozen, so we’ll have plenty of nutritious soups if things get worse.

How to use scraps and bones to make broth and stock!

Soup from scraps
Jump to Recipe

Sopa Tarasca. Use all that delicious bean liquid to make a flavorful soup, using bacon, some of the beans, and all of the bean broth/cooking liquid!

Sopa Tarasca Black Bean Tomato Soup

Back to my shopping trip… even the bread isles were cleared out! I couldn’t even find plain ap flour, but there was whole wheat, self-rising, and a few bags of other various flour. While my husband and I are both essential employees, and will likely continue to work throughout the pandemic, I plan to stay home as much as possible.

I know we have one slice of bread in the house, so I’m planning to make some No-Knead Skillet Bread using up some leftover olives and what’s left of my white whole wheat flour!

Olive Skillet Bread, after second rise

No-Knead Cheddar Skillet Bread with White Pepper!

No Knead Cheddar Skillet Bread

I have 1 pack of yeast left, and I hear many people have NONE! If you have none, here is a link to a NO-YEAST bread from one of my favorite food blogs GimmeSomeOven!

I’m finding it hard to blog during this time, but I am enjoying reading how others are using what’s in their pantries to stay home and come up with meals! It’s inspiring and a nice distraction too. I read somewhere on Facebook that cooking for many people is starting to feel like being on an episode of Chopped! I’m fortunate here in Toledo. Our local butcher is still open. He’s amazing and gets me anything I ask for! Want an entire bag of bones for broth? NO PROBLEM! Want some lean Italian chicken sausage links? NO PROBLEM! Want a bag of random chicken stuff for stock? NO PROBLEM. Thanks Milos, you’re amazing! I wish they were on Instagram! hint.. hint…

I am coping during the evenings with Briarpatch on Hulu (where can I get Jay R. Ferguson’s dance at the end of episode 2 on a loop to watch????!) Cavit Pinot Grigio, Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc and La Vielle Ferme Rose’ and coping overnight with melatonin!

I’m going in to work on Monday and I’m already anxious. How are you coping during the coronavirus crisis?

Chicken Veggie Zoodle & Noodle Stew

Chicken Bones & Veggie Scraps Stock

It's easy to make stock or broth out of scraps and leftovers! You can use it to make soup or even as a flavor boost when cooking rice or quinoa!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 6 People
Calories 40 kcal



For the Stock

  • 1 chicken carcass Use as many as you can fit in the stock pot with the rest of the ingredients. They can be frozen or thawed.
  • 1 *Bag of kitchen veggie scraps AKA “veggie garbage” *See notes! (onion, celery, mushrooms or stems, parsley stems, peppers…) They can be frozen or thawed.
  • 1 tbsp Whole peppercorns ~or a good pinch or two of ground pepper
  • 5 Garlic cloves Unpeeled (If garlic is not your thing, just use a few cloves.
  • 2 tbsp White vinegar White wine, rice wine, any white vinegar.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp Turmeric Optional, omit if you don't like it!
  • ½ tbsp Sugar Optional – white, or turbinado
  • 6 cups water Or enough water to cover, or to the fill line of pressure cooker.
  • 1 tbsp dehydrated onion Optional, adds some extra flavor! Also could use dehydrated garlic or cellery.
  • 2 tbsp Parsley Dehydrated or a bunch of fresh, including the stems.


For the Stock

  • Add all ingredients to a large soup pot or your pressure cooker/Instant Pot then cover with water. If the veggies or bones are frozen, add some water and simmer until you can push it down into the pot.
    If you are using a pressure cooker, be sure to stay below the max fill line!
    Veggie scraps
  • Place the lid on your pressure cooker and set it to seal. Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook on high for 1 to 2½ hours. The longer the better if you are using carcasses or bones!
    Veggies for stock
  • After the timer goes off, allow it to naturally release pressure. (If you don't have time, wait five minutes and go ahead carefully with a quick release.)
  • Set the Instant Pot to simmer for thirty minutes over medium heat with the lid off to reduce the broth. The more the broth reduces the more flavor it will have. You may have to set it to simmer a couple of times if your pressure cooker has a simmer time limit.
  • Place a large colander, over a large stock pot or container. When the soup has reduced, carefully ladle the bones and scraps into the colander in batches to strain. Set the garlic cloves aside. Use a large spoon to mash the broth out of the veggies. Continue until the stock pot is lite enough to pick up and pour through a colander into another large soup pot to finish straining. Careful! It will still be hot! Use oven mitts! The colander will be hot too!
  • Clean out your empty pot. Place a large fine strainer over it and strain the broth back into the Instant Pot. This will get out any residual scraps and make the broth a bit clearer.
  • For a more clear broth, pour the stock through a strainer back into the stock pot to build the soup. Taste and adjust for salt, and pepper. If it's a bit watery, continue to simmer until it's reduced and more flavorful.
  • Defat the broth with a defatting cup, or for easy cleanup, use a paper plate and skim off the fat that is collecting at the top.
  • FLAVOR BOOST! If you are a fan of garlic, squeeze the garlic out of the peels and smash it with a fork until smooth. Add it back to the pot and stir. If you don't like a lot of garlic, save it for something else, or just use a couple of cloves!
  • At this point, I like to divide it into several two-cup storage containers. I like the vented-lid two-cup storage containers. I cool them quickly by putting them outside in the winter, or filling the bottom of the sink with cold water and ice and gently placing the containers inside, being careful not to get sink water in the soup.


Turmeric will turn the soup yellow. I hear it has anti-inflammatory properties, so I add it to all my soups and stocks. It doesn’t have a ton of flavor, but you might want to make sure you like it first!
* Veggie Garbage is the scraps, trimmings, and unused veggies that you toss in a freezer bag in the freezer until you make stock. Some of the best “Veggie Garbage” consists of mushroom stems, peppers, carrot peels, onion peels, parsley stems, and the nubs of the onion when you are dicing and get to the end…


Serving: 1cupCalories: 40kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 405mgPotassium: 179mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 121IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 35mgIron: 1mg
Keyword bones, broth, carcass, chicken, leftovers, scraps, stew, stock
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

So, what do you think? Please comment below!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.